E.M. Lewis’ Plays Take Audiences to Antarctica and Beyond

“I feel so lucky to be a playwright. I love what I do.”

E.M. Lewis

Age: 51

Occupation: Playwright

Why She Matters: As an author of 20 full-length plays whose work has been produced around the world, Lewis is truly one of Oregon’s premiere bards. That, however, is not the main reason she’s on the list.

As a storyteller, Lewis is so ambitious that she has almost single handedly raised the bar for epic theater in Portland. Risky bets, like her five-hour Antarctic epic Magellanica, tend to pay off. When Artists Rep premiered the play in 2018, concerns were raised about the prohibitive costs of a play that demanded four intermissions, including a dinner break. But so many people paid to witness the scope of Lewis’ vision that Artists Rep later invested in an audio version.

Lewis lives on her family’s farm, a wine vineyard located about an hour south of Portland, tending to her garden in her spare time. Her affinity for nature is reflected in her work: both Song of Extinction and Magellancia examine the ongoing global climate crisis. What’s next? In May, her crime drama True Story opens at Artists Rep, where she is a resident playwright.

Biggest Influences: Burn This playwright Lanford Wilson. “He really grappled with who people are and how they are influenced by society and politics. He wrote with a deeply compassionate, but fierce look at human beings.”

Greatest Personal Achievement: “I feel so lucky to be a playwright. I love what I do.”

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Mystery stories

Best Quote About Her: “Ellen’s plays are both intimate and epic, urgently relevant and entertaining. Her characters always feel like fully formed real people, and at the same time, she creates theater that is poetic and magical.” —Dámaso Rodríguez, vice president of the Arts Consulting Group and former artistic director of Artists Repertory Theatre

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